Obama and Israel’s security – Myth vs Reality

Much spin is involved regarding any article touching on President Obama’s relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and through that the President’s relationship with Israel.

This week was another opportunity to hear these statements used over and over when describing the meeting between both countries leaders.

One recurring sentence usually coming from “high level sources” in the White House is – “No US President has given as much funding (money) to the defense of Israel as much as President Obama has”

Or as President Obama has said himself “I’ve done more than any other President to strengthen Israel’s security”.

Obviously certain things go on between Governments that the public isn’t aware of. Having said that certain commitments are public and can be examined.

During the Obama administration, funding was provided for the “Iron Dome” anti-missile Missile System, in addition to its regular annual aid package it provides Israel with every year, the US provided an additional 400 million dollars to speed up the project and allow Israel to procure more mobile launch systems.

During Obama’s time in office Israel’s force projection in the Middle East has actually diminished with time. In every category that Israel was interested in bolstering its strategic capabilities, its request was met with US Administration stonewalling, just a few examples:

Israel has made requests to purchase new Aerial Refueling aircraft, Israel’s refueling aircraft are old aircraft by any standard and Israel has been trying to purchase new ones for the past 8 years. These efforts have been unsuccessful due to US Government restrictions on the sale of these aircraft to Israel. The US Air Force actually put almost 20 Tanker Aircraft into storage due to severe budget cuts in 2012, these aircraft had a significant amount of flying hours left on their airframe and could have been easily sold to Israel or heaven forbid even given as a gift. Currently these aircraft are busy rusting in the Arizona Desert.

USAF KC-135 Tanker - © Yissachar Ruas
USAF KC-135 Tanker – © Yissachar Ruas

 

Israel, which has been a Partner Nation on the F35 project since 2003, was under pressure by the US to additionally purchase V-22 “Osprey” tilt rotor aircraft, in 2012 while in the midst of the procurement plan to purchase the extremely expensive F-35. The US Company Bell-Boeing was under immense pressure to offset the price of its indigenous V-22 aircraft. One of the main instruments in the lowering of production and development costs of any aircraft, is selling it to a foreign Military. The problem with the “Osprey”, is that it is a very expensive aircraft and has created very little interest among militaries outside the US. Israel with its ever growing defense budget constraints, had in fact looked into the aircraft, but found that at its current price tag it was not as cost effective to make it worth the IAF’s while, especially since almost the whole (!!) portion of US Aid in its Defense Budget  is already earmarked for payments on the F-35 until 2018 (!!).

US Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey © Yissachar Ruas
US Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey © Yissachar Ruas

President Obama, during his visit to Israel in 2012, promised Israeli officials that he would be “giving Israel a present” in the form of both Tanker aircraft as well as V-22s. The promise was made public by the US administration. So why haven’t either aircraft been seen coming even remotely close to Israeli airspace?

USAF KC-135 Tanker in action refueling an F-16 © Yissachar Ruas
USAF KC-135 Tanker in action refueling an F-16 © Yissachar Ruas

After agreeing to in fact purchase the Osprey based on the use of US Military Aid funding another problem came up – ALL of the money in the IDF’s procurement budget for purchasing in the US has been earmarked since 2010 for the purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. In order for the Osprey to be purchased, the Administration would need to pass a new law through Congress extending the annual aid plan Israel receives past 2018.

The F-35, the source of Israel’s budget deficiency, is an aircraft the IAF was initially not interested in. The only reason the F-35 was purchased was because of the Pentagon tagging the F-22 Raptor as not available for sale to any foreign country very late in its development.

So the only fighter available for Israel to purchase to replace its ageing fleets of both F-15s and F-16s was the F-35, Israel purchased the aircraft with a measure of reluctance and demanded that certain concessions be made for them to approve the purchase. The US which was desperate for foreign orders to help finance the aircraft development’s ever growing cost.

Like the V-22, the F-35 was plagued with issues, yet still Israel decided to put all its eggs in the only basket made available to it by the US Administration.

USMC F-35B © Yissachar Ruas
USMC F-35B © Yissachar Ruas

Historically, over the past 3 decades, US Presidents that were genuinely interested in Israel’s security, found ways to bolster Israel’s offensive capabilities by providing Israel with surplus US aircraft that were in its inventory. Israel has received over the years in this manner F-15s, F-16s, Blackhawk and Stallion helicopters as well as cargo aircraft which were later converted to refuelers and even additional funding for some of its major arms purchases. There was an exception was under President Bush and this was perceived largely due to the US military being stretched extremely thin during Operation “Iraqi Freedom”, therefore the US needed every available armed platform.

With the US’s withdrawal from Iraq and as mentioned the sidelining of many aircraft Israel was interested in, this would have been a perfect opportunity for the Obama Administration to show its support while not actually having to spend a dime to help overcome the distrust the Israeli public has towards President Obama. But despite promises made by the Administration to provide Israel with certain aircraft, almost 4 years later and nothing has changed. The US Administration under Obama seems keen in not providing Israel with any “extra” platform that can be perceived as adding to Israel’s offensive capabilities. So while President Obama is more than happy for Israelis to “bunker up” as much as they would like, it seems like allowing Israel to pro-actively defend itself by taking the fight to its enemies is something the current administration is not interested in promoting. If you had any doubts on the matter it was enough to view the Ben Rhodes debacle regarding an Afghan school to understand the Administration’s double talk. This Administration showed that it does not always hold in high regard Israel’s moral right to defend itself offensively when necessary.

During a time that Israel is feeling threatened by Iran’s constant threats of annihilating the Jewish State, President Obama could have made relatively small gestures towards showing he is committed to Israel’s security, instead, his constant undertone is that while he has no problem with Israel defending itself, he will not go even an inch forward to help bolster Israel’s offensive capabilities, something which sets back the US-Israel relationship all the way to the 60’s and Kennedy’s Administration.

This feeling is not lost on Israeli Government Officials, it is also not lost on most Israeli citizens. Those very same citizens were amenable to making concessions under other Administrations since it felt the US and its leaders had its back. Over the past 6 years those same Israelis read the undertones very well, while most Israeli citizens have harsh criticism at times towards their own Government, they are very much of similar opinion that President Obama is at the very least indifferent to Israel’s security.

For centuries Jews were not allowed to be armed, they lived under the protection of whatever ruler they found favor in the eyes of. For over 2000 years Jews did not rise up and defend themselves, almost 70 years of Jews being able to choose how to defend themselves should not be curtailed by any leader.

Israel does benefit from a strong allegiance with the United States, but it cannot agree to being subjugated by a US Administration, deciding when its ok for Israel to strike or retaliate and with what weapons. The freezing of weapons shipments during Operation “Protective Edge”, shipments which were of precision guided munitions, ordinance which by definition is meant to reduce the amount of civilian and non-combatant casualties, was seen as a direct threat to Israel’s safety at a time when rockets were being fired at Israeli civilian population centers.

Israel cannot defend itself with “Iron Dome” alone, President Obama touting the fact that he provided funding for a single defensive weapons system is only one aspect of how committed he is to Israel’s defense.

There are many other aspects to view when asking Israelis to believe that statement, from the ones that are more overt, it seems like much more of a myth than a reality.

About the Author
I work in journalism as a freelance photojournalist, I write and produce special features for INN (Arutz 7) related to Policy and Military issues I also contribute to magazines such as Air Forces Monthly as well as Israel Hayom daily newspaper among other publications.
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